Former Ferrari engineer Rob Smedley believes the break from racing this month provides them a chance to “concentrate fully” on the task at hand.
Having faded away in the latter half of 2022, Ferrari would have been hoping for a swift turn around of their fortunes in 2023 but the season so far has been anything but.
Charles Leclerc has failed to finish in two of the opening three grands prix while both drivers are yet to stand on the podium.
With Aston Martin coming on leaps and bounds and Mercedes showing some long lost performance in Melbourne, Ferrari’s ability to retain P2 let alone challenge for the title has come under serious question.
But, with four weeks between the last race in Australia and the next in Baku, they do at least have time on their side to right some of the wrongs.
Former test team engineer Smedley, who also previously served as Felipe Massa’s race engineer, believes the enforced break due to the cancellation of the Chinese Grand Prix provides Ferrari a chance to step back and evaluate the bigger picture.
“I think more than anything, it gives you time to focus,” Smedley told the Sky Sports F1 podcast. “Because the organisation is just purely focused on development rather than operations [during a break].
“So you don’t have to get a huge chunk of your organisation on a plane and get them to go and do all that grand prix racing nonsense, you can just get them all really focused on development.
“This is an opportunity not just for Ferrari but for all of the teams. [It] is an opportunity because when you’re right in the midst of racing, you sometimes can’t put your head up and it’s not always easy to see the obvious things that are in front of you, because you’re just headlong into delivering races and just trying to maximise those races.
“That means that obviously, there’s a large chunk of your organisation that isn’t doing that, but they are drawn towards what’s going on at the racetrack. They will get involved in that to some extent, even though their job is back in the factory, whether it’s the design office or the wind tunnel.”
It is not just performance where Ferrari have been lacking as reliability has also been a problem. At just the second race of the season, Leclerc became the first driver to receive a grid penalty for taking a third new ICE.
Smedley, who also has stints at McLaren, Jordan and Williams on his CV as well as his current role as director of data systems at Formula 1, said having all their team back at their Maranello base will allow Ferrari to “concentrate fully” on the task at hand.
“Once you don’t have that [staff absent] and all the little niggles that come out of race weekends as well, because you have little reliability niggles and little things that perhaps don’t go quite right then you’ve got to kind of turn your organisation into dealing with that, once all that’s gone, like we’re going to have in April, Ferrari will be able to concentrate fully on the the job in hand.
“Which is trying to get their act together and produce a faster Formula 1 car and maximise that car at the track as well. So I think it’s important that we understand that it’s not just about bringing a fast Formula 1 car, it’s also about maximising it and getting the most points out of it as you can every single weekend.”